Irresistible Temptation(7)

By: Sara Craven



'I hope you don't expect me to thank you effusively.' Olivia accepted the slip of paper, then stalked into the hall and picked up her case.

'I gave up believing in miracles a long time ago.' He unfastened the front door and held it open for her. 'Goodbye, Ms Butler.'

'Oh, that's such a final word,' she said with saccharine sweetness. 'I much prefer au revoir, don't you?'

'Not,' he said, 'where you're concerned. 'I'll tell Jeremy where he can find you. Against my better judgement, I may say,' he added grimly.

The door slammed, shutting her out into a sunlit day which seemed suddenly to have lost its warmth.

'To hell with him,' she muttered, hefting her case down the steps. 'Jeremy will be back soon—and then our life together will begin.

She gave a last look back at the house.

'And there isn't a tiling you can do about it,' she added defiantly, just as if he was listening.

She walked away, without looking back, but found herself wondering, at the same time, if he was standing at one of the windows, watching her go. And, if so, precisely why should it matter to her anyway?





CHAPTER TWO





Broodingly, Declan stood at the study window, watching Olivia's slim figure walk away. He was already regretting the quixotic impulse to suggest Sasha as a temporary refuge for her.

I should have taken her to Paddington—put her on the next train west Saved a hell of a lot of trouble all round, he told himself irritably.

He saw her stop and put down her case, flexing her fingers before transferring it to her other hand and walking on. Her straight back looked gallant, and somehow vulnerable, and he cursed silently. He knew that if he'd been dressed he'd have felt obliged to go after her. Help her with the bloody thing. Take her to Sasha's and introduce her, even.

And yet there was no obligation on his side. On the contrary, he reminded himself bitterly. All he'd probably done by his intervention was make a bad situation worse.

For a moment or two he let his thoughts dwell unpleasantly on Jeremy Attwood, and the things he would have to say to him on his return.

That done, the ball would be in Jeremy's court This is his damned mess. Let him sort it out, he told himself curtly as he turned determinedly away from the window.

In the meantime, he had a problem of his own to deal with.

He went swiftly up the stairs to the first floor. The drawing room was there, with its panoramic view over the garden, but he didn't waste a glance on it, heading instead for the door at the back of the room which led to his private suite. For his next task he needed to be fully dressed, with his head firmly together.

He stepped through into the narrow passage, and turned right into his dressing room, grabbing some underwear, a white cotton shirt and a pair of jeans. He was on his way into the bathroom opposite when he realised that his bedroom door at the end of the passage was standing ajar, and he knew he'd left it closed.

Still holding his armful of clothing, he moved noiselessly along the passage, his foot tangling in something lying on the floor in front of the door. Mouth tightening, he recognised the peach towel from the guest bathroom on the second floor, and swore under his breath.

He pushed the door wide, and stood in the doorway. Melinda was propped artistically against the pillows of his bed, the covers draped across her hips.

'Hello, darling.' Her smile was pure invitation. 'What an age you've been. Did you manage to get rid of the little brown mouse?'

Declan leaned a shoulder against the doorpost He felt unutterably weary. 'What are you doing, Melinda?'

'Waiting for you, darling, what else? You did tell me to.'

'No.' He shook his head. 'I said I'd see you later. Not the same thing at all.'

'Don't be picky, sweetie.' She moved slowly, luxuriously, stretching her arms above her head. 'Doesn't this bring back some happy memories?'

'I won't deny that' Declan kept his eyes fixed steadily on her face. 'But I also remember that you're engaged—to Bill Fenner. Maybe you should, too.'

'Bill's in Warwickshire, staying with his dreary family,' she said with a touch of impatience. 'That's why he didn't take me to the party last night. He can be so boring sometimes.'

'And this is pay-back time—for being boring?' Declan sighed. 'No, Melinda. That's not how it works. Now go and get dressed, and I'll call a cab for you.'

She lifted a hand, admiring the sparkle of the enormous diamond she wore on her left hand.

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